Charlie Parr performs songs from 'Dog' on the Local Show

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Charlie Parr performs songs from his new record
Charlie Parr performs songs from his new record "Dog" inside the Kling Center for Public Media in St. Paul, Minn. (Evan Frost | MPR News)
Charlie Parr performs in The Current's studio (full performance + interview)
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| 00:25:28
  • Charlie Parr performs in The Current's studio (full performance + interview) 25:28
  • Charlie Parr - Boiling Down Silas (Live at The Current) 05:01
  • Charlie Parr - Dog (Live at The Current) 03:46
  • Charlie Parr - Peaceful Valley (Live at The Current) 03:56

Charlie Parr is a songwriter, a guitar and banjo player, and a longtime resident of Duluth, Minn. But he's also so much more. Crossing the country in his van, he's been an inspiration to many for decades, performing music and, more recently, sharing the story of his struggle with depression.

Joined by Mikkel Beckman on washboard and Liz Draper on bass, Parr recorded a session with Andrea Swensson for the Local Show. He performed "Boiling Down Silas," "Dog," and "Peaceful Valley" and talked about everything from choosing instruments for his band to deciding to make his depression public. Here are a couple of the best interview snippets.

Interview Highlights

On pairing such instruments as washboard and electric bass:

"It's like going to one of those yogurt places where you are given the responsibility of choosing a flavor of yogurt, which you can go down the line and pick a bite of each one. And then you're given the responsibility of picking the things you like to go in the yogurt. If you're a person that likes this and that and a little bit of that, you might not know that they don't go together at all, but you picked them anyway 'cause you're a grown-up person and you can do that."

On dealing with depression:

"Depression has been around since I was an early teenager. It was really bad, and I was hospitalized. In my 20s and 30s, it seemed to lift, or something. My dad died in there somewhere, and I had an immense amount of grief, but I was working so hard at playing music and doing other things. I had a meaningful job, and it didn't really manifest itself like it had when I was young. Then three or four years ago, it started to creep back.

For me, depression manifests itself in really physical ways. Blurry eyesight. My clothes don't feel like they fit. I get scared of talking to anybody, [even] my friends. You just get paralyzed."

On why he decided to share his struggle:

"I am a little bit of a person who lives in public, because I'm at shows and people see me as the person who was just on stage, and they try to talk to me. And if I'm having a bad night -- if I'm in a spot where I don't feel well -- it's really hard to get through those conversations.

Since I do have physical problems that come from depression, I thought, "People are going to think I'm a heroin addict. People are going to think I'm this or I'm that." I said, if I were a heroin addict, I'd probably want to say something about it if I'm getting help. So maybe I should say something about this when I'm trying to get help. For the same reasons: there are other people out there who are addicted, who are depressed, who have kinds of issues that are oftentimes either stigmatized or not even spoken about. So I should say something.

I struggled with it for many months before I decided that when the record was getting to be done -- and these songs are, to me, anyway, obviously about this -- I should just use this time to say it."

Songs Performed

"Boiling Down Silas"
"Peaceful Valley"

All songs from Charlie Parr's 2017 release, Dog, available via Red House Records.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson
Produced by Andrea Swensson
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Visuals by Chip Walton and Evan Frost
Web feature by Cecilia Johnson


Charlie Parr - official site

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3 Photos

  • Charlie Parr performs in Studio M.
    Charlie Parr performs in the Maud Moon Weyerhauser Studio inside the Kling Center for Public Media in St. Paul, Minn. (Evan Frost | MPR News)
  • Charlie Parr soundchecks inside Studio M
    Charlie Parr soundchecks inside Studio M in the Kling Center for Public Media in St. Paul, Minn. (Evan Frost | MPR News)
  • Charlie Parr at the MPR studios
    Charlie Parr was fresh off the drive from Chicago when he arrived in the MPR studios on October 23, 2017. While he lives in Duluth, he is regularly on the road in his van, playing gigs around the country. (Euan Kerr | MPR News)

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